First Look

First Look: Darkoo's Chicken Shack Lands in East Dallas

Darkoo's is a mix of Asian-styles of fried chicken along with sides that range from French fries to a cucumber salad with crab.
Darkoo's is a mix of Asian-styles of fried chicken along with sides that range from French fries to a cucumber salad with crab. Lauren Drewes Daniels
When the small East Dallas Lao restaurant Khao Noodle Shop closed earlier this year, owner Donny Sirisavath promised that while it was the end of one chapter it was the beginning of another. In its short three-year run, Khao, with a menu of boat noodles and small bites, was anointed the second-best new restaurant in the nation by Bon Appetit in 2019, along with a bevy of local accolades, including a spot on our 100 best restaurants.
click to enlarge Darkoo's Chicken Shack opened last week in the old Khao Noodle Shop spot. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Darkoo's Chicken Shack opened last week in the old Khao Noodle Shop spot.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Darkoo's Chicken Shack is a collaboration between Sirisavath and Jimmy Niwa of Niwa Japanese BBQ. Here they serve Asian-style fried chicken. When they opened the doors on Friday evening at 6 p.m. there was a small line of customers waiting outside. Families with small kids played around the tables in their courtyard.
click to enlarge Lao gai comes in buckets with either two or four pieces. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Lao gai comes in buckets with either two or four pieces.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Like Khao, the menu here is tight. There are four chicken options on Darkoo's menu along with 11 sides and five house-made sauces. For the mains, Lao gai comes in two or four-piece buckets with fries or rice ($13 or $18). Karaage, chunks of mostly dark meat coated and deep-fried, is also served with a side of fries or rice ($12). Panko tenders are all-white meat with a thick crust of panko ($14). A plate of Khao mun gai, poached chicken served atop seasoned rice is $14. Finally, there's "incogmeato" for vegetarians ($13).

The Lao gai comes with a small crack-like packet of spice, which is appropriate. Unlike the typical salt packets that are tossed aside or used to save a bland dish, these are a mix of some holy flavors that completely transforms the meal. You'll find yourself scouring the black and white checkered paper, mushing chunks of chicken and sticky rice atop scatterings of the spice to get every last lick of kick.
click to enlarge On the top left is the cucumber salad with one little crab claw sticking out; more is buried within the salad. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
On the top left is the cucumber salad with one little crab claw sticking out; more is buried within the salad.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
The sides are a hopscotch of cultures. There are the traditional sides we'd expect to find at an American fried chicken place: macaroni salad and coleslaw. Then there's "eLAOtes," a nod to the Mexican street food often found in East Dallas. Plus traditional Lao and Thai dishes.

We tried the spicy cucumber salad that comes with dismembered crabs; a pincher here and leg there throughout the salad. The cucumbers are soaked in a vinegary sauce and aren't too spicy. But the crabs pack heat; be careful sucking the juices and meat out of those as those little guys. They absorb some serious spice before becoming part of the menu here.
click to enlarge Panko-crusted chicken tenders served with sticky rice (for scale this is a small plate). - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Panko-crusted chicken tenders served with sticky rice (for scale this is a small plate).
Lauren Drewes Daniels
For other sides, there are fried chicken skin, fried 'shrooms and carrots and pickled daikon. Prices for all the sides range from $5 to $7.

The sauce menu definitely deserves a more thorough investigation. At the time, with a line to the door on just the third day of business, it didn't feel appropriate to interrogate the staff on the distinctions of each. Since they cost $1.50 each, I asked them to just pick one for me.

Next visit we'll be sure to add on an order of Darkoo's eggs, which are sweet potato and purple yams that look like doughnut holes, served with a pandan custard.

Despite Sirisavath's genius touch with noodles at Khao, packing up delicate noodles to go during the pandemic was too hard of a punch to absorb, despite a lot of bobbing and weaving. With this concept, we hope this East Dallas gem does well.

Darkoo's Chicken Shack, 4812 Bryan St. #101, 6-10 p.m. Monday - Thursday; 6 - 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.